How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

Matt Duffy slides in with the go-ahead run in 8th Tuesday. [AP]
Matt Duffy slides in with the go-ahead run in 8th Tuesday. [AP]
Published June 20 2018

There was some interesting inside baseball elements that factored into the late innings of Tuesday's 2-1 Rays win.

* First, on Matt Duffy's double off reliever Hector Rondon to lead off the eighth.

Duffy said he doesn't like "to guess" what a pitcher is going to throw, but he's all for gathering data and sitting on something specific.

Watching how reliever Hector Rondon worked Kevin Kiermaier when he came into the game with two outs in the seventh,  from what he knew about Rondon previously and from the scouting reports, Duffy started thinking the slider might be featured.

Then when he factored in how bad he looked against starter Justin Verlander's slider. Duffy became convinced that's what he'd get.

"Typically catcher's call fall into patterns, too," Duffy said. "Verlander was slider, slider, slider my third at-bat and I didn't look great on 'em. That combined with the fact that he's slider-heavy in general. He wasn't afraid of his slider to (Kevin Kiermaier, for the out of the seventh) which typically right on left a guy's not going to throw as many sliders.

"I feel like it was just a lot of factors adding the fact that he might try to sneak a strike with a slider."

Rondon did, then Duffy made him pay by lacing a double.

* Next came rookie Jake Bauers, who calmly made a veteran move, hitting a ground to the right side, advancing Duffy to third.

"Biggest at-bat of the night," Duffy said. "Let him swing the bat there against a tough pitcher who's got a lot of velo behind him. It's not easy to get around that ball. A veteran (pitcher) like that, a lot of times he'll see a young guys who's trying to get the head (of the bat) out he'll just feed him off-speed pitches to get him to swing and miss. Just a professional at-bat."

Duffy was running on contact as Wilson Ramos bounced a grounder that ticked off the glove of leaping 3B Yuli Gurriel with the infield in. He got a good enough jump, he felt, to have been save anyway but said he heard the collective reaction from the crowd when the ball got through.

* Finally the way manager Kevin Cash manipulated his once again shorthanded bullpen to get the final six outs. For the eighth he used RHP Ryne Stanek, the same guy who started Monday as the "game opener."
Cash planned for the ninth to be a effort.

He went first to LHP Jose Alvarado, who gave up single and then got a popup. Meanwhile, Cash had two veterans warming, RHP Sergio Romo and LHP Jonny  Venters.

When the Astros used Josh Reddick, a lefty swinger, to pinch-run for Gattis,
Cash guessed – correnctly – they'd be unlikely to use Brian McCann, the other lefty on the bench, since he was their last remaining position player. So Romo came in and faced three righthanders, and  the Rays hung on for the win.

"It played out well," Cash said.

In many ways.